Switch Killer

Switch_Killer_posterIn the 90s GLAAD objected to The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill on the grounds that the character was “a cross dressing, misogynistic serial killer.”

Well, don the fish nets and pumps as here comes Switch Killer (originally titled Transamerican Killer), an incredibly sleazy yet highly effective and affecting exploitation slasher set in Sin City.

Cara Jo Basso is extraordinary as Jamie, a woman abused by and trying to escape from an obsessive idiot who is leaving her threatening voicemails and sending her flowers. And that’s pretty much it plot-wise. Switch Killer’s narrative is as skimpy as the outfits.

Jamie takes refuge at her grandmother’s place, a charming old-timer who’s moved to tears by Bogey in Casablanca. On the side, Jamie takes a job as a stripper, becoming romantically involved with an attractive colleague while explaining away her nightly absence to granny as “a job in the restaurant business.” Because we’re better than that, you’ll get no “job” yuks on this site.

Meanwhile, a very svelte trans/cross dressing killer is stalking Jamie and her fellow pole dancers and spreading panic in Vegas around New Year’s Eve.

Switch_KillerSwitch Killer is a total grindhouse throwback, a film which has more in common with the likes of Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than any of its 80s final girl progenitors.

Director Mack Hail is obviously well-versed in what makes the horror genre great.

It’s interesting to see a stripper played so sympathetically, and the use of the uber-sleazy Nevada hub of gambling and prostitution as a horror backdrop makes for some captivating visuals.

For a film that’s this (some would say) nonredeemable in its sordidness, there’s surprisingly not much in the way of gore. Sure, a few dancers are gutted like freshly-caught trout and shoved into oncoming trains, but the tension comes from the build-up and the highly realistic depictions of the strip club scene (don’t ask how we came by this knowledge).

As is often the case, didn’t expect much from the title; Switch Killer delivers in spades, and all for a modest budget.

As for as depictions of the transgendered…well, this ain’t Dallas Buyers Club.

*** (out of 5).

Easter Sunday

It was 24 years ago today/ Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…whoops….wrong record. This is horror-serial-killer back story time, not classic albums that changed the face of popular music.

Right-o.

It was 24 years ago, not today but rather Easter Sunday, when unassuming family man Douglas Fisher went a little off-script and created a paper maché Easter bunny mask of his own design, complete with light up eyes. He then went on a bloody killing spree which culminated in the execution of his own wife and daughter.

The Fisher Bunny Massacre, as depicted in the opening, pre-credit scenes in debut writer/director Jeremy Todd Moorehead’s Easter Sunday,  is rendered in washed-out colors and shown replete with pseudo-well-rented VHS artifacting, making the film look like something you’d unearth at a flea market or thrift shop on sale for about a buck-ninety-nine. The retro look and feel works well for this indie production, as Easter Sunday is all about the retro — a loving homage/throwback to our beloved slashers of the 80s, albeit with some modern touches like that need to go all meta on the audience, a pesky peccadillo of modern slashers that will not go away despite the fact that it’s been over 20 years since Wes Craven blessed/cursed the genre with the conceit in Scream.

After the bravura opening scenes which feature some bang-up kills such as a neck-slash and a face scalding in a pot of boiling water, all rendered with impressive practical effects grue, we then settle into present day where we learn that Fisher’s rampage was halted by a timely bullet from the gun of Sheriff Arkin (the late, great Robert Z’Dar to whom the film is dedicated).

Our amiable protagonist is the betrothed Jeremiah (Moorehead),  lead singer of the multi-racial, light-reggae/rap hybrid band Heart Eaters. And on the keys is Jeremiah’s bud Ryan Tate, née Fisher, the son of the notorious Bunny Killer, who miraculously survived his father’s rampage. After band practice, the members and their respective significant others gather around the bonfire to get wasted and play around with a spirit board. They devise the brilliant idea to contact the spirit of Fisher Sr., and aided and abetted by the mysterious “Postman” next door (First Jason Ari Lehman), succeed in making contact. Soon, Fisher Jr. is possessed by the soul of his dead father, and after acquiring pa’s tools of his trade (the mask and his ax), the massacre begins anew with the provision that Fisher must kill all who were involved in resuscitating him lest he perish again.

Easter Sunday is good fun. The kills are plentiful and are rendered, for the most part, practically (CG is utilized for some of the more outlandish gore gags). The cast is uniformly strong, and the thrills and kills are punctuated by plenty of humor — some quite funny, while others, like the aforementioned meta references to past horror flicks, a tad tiresome.

Considering that it was made on a shoestring ($10,000), Easter Sunday looks pretty good, with some sharp elements of style and impressive camera work. The film could have used a some more judicious editing as it does tend to tire before the final act, but ultimately, there’s enough heart, humor and grisly, gory kills within to warrant a viewing.

A worthy addition to the pantheon of holiday horrors.

***1/2 (out of 5)